Tuesday, October 13, 2015

"For-profit social venture" still collects, resells physical books for charity ("Better World Books")

While passing though Leesburg, VA yesterday on a Columbus Day trip (aka Indigenous People’s Day), I saw what looked like a collection box in a Starbuck’s parking lot for “Better World Books”.  Unfortunately, there was some debris near it.

The company is a for-profit social venture whose earnings go toward literacy programs around the world.  It’s FAQ page is here. Apparently it had started at Notre Dame (remember, the ND football team is a favorite of actor Richard Harmon). 

The organization collects used textbooks and also “discards” from public libraries, and then sells them.  The textbook part of the business is likely the most successful, since new college textbook prices have gone out of control (but that may be due to lack of competition).  The company’s own FAQ page is here.  

Again, what’s interesting to me here is the idea of copies of books as “commodities”.  I’ve been pestered after self-publishing my own DADT books about why I don’t spend time networking with physical stores and trying to “sell”.  Well, I’m busy with other development (music, blogs, screenplay, video) and I don’t have time for “operations”.  I usually tell people that the cheapest way to buy my books is Kindle or Nook (it is indeed), but that doesn’t help “sell books” especially in stores.  (And, yes, the approaches made to me years ago about multi-level marketing, or about selling financial services didn’t go anywhere – I can’t see wasting time sitting in a kiosk in a shopping mall.)  And despite the supposed demised of local bookstores because of big chains and because of Internet, I still run into them in small towns.  Am I “local” enough for northern Virginia?  That’s a good question, but my social media contacts seem to be distributed around the country, not always locally, even a little bit in Europe.   I should try the local library soon.

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